Touching account of a Japanese-American woman’s experiences, including her family’s struggle through internment during World War II.
Originally published in 2007 by Willow Valley Press as Dandelion Through the Crack, Sato’s memoir earned a well-deserved William Saroyan Prize for Nonfiction last year. Readers, too, will find many rewards as she chronicles her long life. Her father first came to the United States from Japan in 1911. He married a Japanese woman and soon raised a large family in America. Kiyo, born in 1923, and her eight siblings helped their parents build a successful farm in California. The American dream seemed to be coming true for them until February 1942, when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent the Satos, along with more than 120,000 other Japanese-Americans, to internment camps. Now in her 80s, the author sets down amazingly detailed and poignant memories in immediate, present-tense prose: her mother sadly slicing vegetables in the kitchen on the last day before internment; boys at the camp catching rattlesnakes; her conflicted emotions when she got accepted to a college and left the camp. Not that life was necessarily easier at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where a fellow student told her, “You don’t seem to remember that you’re not white.” After the Satos were released from the camp, they worked to rebuild their ruined farm and interrupted lives. Some of the saddest scenes take place during this period. The author writes movingly of her neighbors, the Yamasakis, whose farm was foreclosed and sold while they were interned, and the Kitadas, who lost all their belongings in a fire. Sato also revisits more intimate life experiences, including her relationship with her mother through the years.
An eloquent personal work that’s also an important portrait of a shameful period in American history.